The Good Word from Rev. George E. Young, Sr. Luke: 4:16-20 (NRSV) and other matters
Published: January 17th, 2021
Oklahoma City — Monday (January 11) was a tough day.
Then, came Tuesday (January 12). It wasn’t much better. Then, there was Wednesday (January 13) – and that was just about the worst – at least since the previous Wednesday, which absolutely was the worst.
As the children’s song goes, when they’re learning the days of week: “Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then the week is done.” Each of those days was bit better than the first three, at least this last week.
And then came Sunday. At my home church, the Catholic Cathedral (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) in Oklahoma City, the first reading was the glorious tale from the first Book of Samuel, the third chapter.
The night was on, and Samuel the young Temple apprentice was trying to sleep. Someone called to him. He ran to Eli — his “Boss” I guess you could say — and said, “Here I am. You called me.” The same thing happened more than once.
Samuel was, the good word says, “not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him yet.” After a couple of exchanges that night, Eli realized something was up: “Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, ‘Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply: Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Again he was called — “Samuel, Samuel!” – and he answered as directed. And he listened.
After that, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” (New American Bible translation).
Sunday, January 17, at mid-day, I caught up with George E. Young, Sr. Lots of folks call him state Senator George Young, D-Oklahoma City.
I’ve known him long enough that sometimes I start conversations asking: “Preacher, what part of the Word did you teach from today?”
Every year, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday comes around, and hits its stride when Pastor Young rises, whatever the venue, to speak. This year, he was given pulpit time at St. John Missionary Baptist on Kelley Avenue in Oklahoma City.
He spoke about freedom, about God’s promise to those who are afflicted, and other things.
His inspiration, he told me, came from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 4, verses 1-20.
The words are:
“When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” (New Revised Standard Version)
That story is sometimes considered a preface to the rejection of Jesus by his own people, in Nazareth. Pastor Young and I talked about that for a bit.
Then we talked over some of his legislative proposals at the State Capitol this year. And then, we chatted for a time about recent troubles in this land we love. No surprise, we were not in all matters at the same place or of the same views. But familiarity and long years of shared struggle has not bred contempt between us, but brotherly love.
I mentioned I was preparing a story about another one of his new bills. And I asked him about the health of a mutual friend.
Just normal things between two men who have been around the block, been through times of trial, and value the solace of comfort from a friend.
Some years ago, I came to the same place as Pastor Young concerning the important issue of capital punishment. And, I’ve long supported criminal justice reforms he finds agreeable.
It’s a two-way street. Two guys who, after years of initial, wary assessment, long ago took down the walls and decided to walk on, in trust, until the end. These last few months we each lost people we care about, sooner than anticipated.
Formal business done, I asked him to close our time over the phone.
The reporter and the politician, the Catholic and the Protestant, the conservative and the liberal, the teacher and the preacher, ended with a word of prayer.
He asked for God’s blessing upon each of us, on those we know and love, on our leaders and their followers, on our state and our nation.
He asked for wisdom, and for unity. And I said, Amen.
In the course of human events, I’m glad to know him.
In times such as these, I am thankful to the Lord to know His servant, George Young.
And, to one and all: Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!